CHAPTER XVII: Of the State of Society in Paris During the Time of the Constituent Assembly. - Germaine de Staël, Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Revolution (LF ed.) 
Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Revolution, newly revised translation of the 1818 English edition, edited, with an introduction and notes by Aurelian Craiutu (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
- A Thinker For Our Times: Madame De Staël, Her Life and Works
- Life of Madame De Staël
- Works of Madame De Staël
- Madame De Staël and Napoléon
- The Ideas of Considerations
- The Reception of Considerations
- Madame De Staël and America
- Note On the Present Edition
- Considerations On the Principal Events of the French Revolution
- Notice By the Editors 1
- Advertisement of the Author
- Part I
- Chapter I: General Reflections.
- Chapter II: Considerations On the History of France.
- Chapter III: On the State of Public Opinion In France At the Accession of Louis XVI.
- Chapter IV: Of the Character of M. Necker As a Public Man.
- Chapter V: M. Necker’s Plans of Finance.
- Chapter VI: M. Necker’s Plans of Administration.
- Chapter VII: Of the American War.
- Chapter VIII: M. Necker’s Retirement From Office In 1781.
- Chapter IX: The Circumstances That Led to the Assembling of the Estates General.—ministry of M. De Calonne.
- Chapter X: Sequel of the Preceding.—ministry of the Archbishop of Toulouse.
- Chapter XI: Did France Possess a Constitution Before the Revolution? 1
- Chapter XII: On the Recall of M. Necker In 1788.
- Chapter XIII: Conduct of the Last Estates General, Held At Paris In 1614.
- Chapter XIV: The Division of the Estates General Into Orders.
- Chapter XV: What Was the Public Feeling of Europe At the Time of Convening the Estates General?
- Chapter XVI: Opening of the Estates General On the 5th of May, 1789.
- Chapter XVII: Of the Resistance of the Privileged Orders to the Demands of the Third Estate In 1789.
- Chapter XVIII: Conduct of the Third Estate During the First Two Months of the Session of the Estates General.
- Chapter XIX: Means Possessed By the Crown In 1789 of Opposing the Revolution.
- Chapter XX: The Royal Session of 23d June, 1789.
- Chapter XXI: Events Caused By the Royal Session of 23d June, 1789.
- Chapter XXII: Revolution of the 14th of July (1789).
- Chapter XXIII: Return of M. Necker.
- Part Ii
- Chapter I: Mirabeau.
- Chapter II: Of the Constituent Assembly After the 14th of July.
- Chapter III: General La Fayette.
- Chapter IV: Of the Good Effected By the Constituent Assembly.
- Chapter V: Liberty of the Press, and State of the Police, During the Time of the Constituent Assembly.
- Chapter VI: Of the Different Parties Conspicuous In the Constituent Assembly.
- Chapter VII: Of the Errors of the Constituent Assembly In Matters of Administration.
- Chapter VIII: Of the Errors of the National Assembly In Regard to the Constitution.
- Chapter IX: Efforts Made By M. Necker With the Popular Party In the Constituent Assembly to Induce It to Establish the English Constitution In France.
- Chapter X: Did the English Government Give Money to Foment Troubles In France?
- Chapter XI: Events of the 5th and 6th of October, 1789.
- Chapter XII: The Constituent Assembly At Paris.
- Chapter XIII: Of the Decrees of the Constituent Assembly In Regard to the Clergy.
- Chapter XIV: Of the Suppression of Titles of Nobility.
- Chapter XV: Of the Royal Authority As It Was Established By the Constituent Assembly.
- Chapter XVI: Federation of 14th July, 1790.
- Chapter XVII: Of the State of Society In Paris During the Time of the Constituent Assembly.
- Chapter XVIII: The Introduction of Assignats, and Retirement of M. Necker.
- Chapter XIX: State of Affairs and of Political Parties In the Winter of 1790–91.
- Chapter XX: Death of Mirabeau.
- Chapter XXI: Departure of the King On the 21st of June, 1791.
- Chapter XXII: Revision of the Constitution.
- Chapter XXIII: Acceptance of the Constitution, Called the Constitution of 1791.
- Part Iii
- Chapter I: On the Emigration.
- Chapter II: Prediction of M. Necker On the Fate of the Constitution of 1791.
- Chapter III: Of the Different Parties Which Composed the Legislative Assembly.
- Chapter IV: Spirit of the Decrees of the Legislative Assembly.
- Chapter V: Of the First War Between France and Europe.
- Chapter VI: Of the Means Employed In 1792 to Establish the Republic.
- Chapter VII: Anniversary of 14th July Celebrated In 1792.
- Chapter VIII: Manifesto of the Duke of Brunswick.
- Chapter IX: Revolution of the 10th of August, 1792—overthrow of the Monarchy.
- Chapter X: Private Anecdotes.
- Chapter XI: The Foreign Troops Driven From France In 1792.
- Chapter XII: Trial of Louis XVI.
- Chapter XIII: Charles I and Louis XVI.
- Chapter XIV: War Between France and England. Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox.
- Chapter XV: Of Political Fanaticism.
- Chapter XVI: Of the Government Called the Reign of Terror.
- Chapter XVII: The French Army During the Reign of Terror; the Federalists and La Vendée.
- Chapter XVIII: Of the Situation of the Friends of Liberty Out of France During the Reign of Terror.
- Chapter XIX: Fall of Robespierre, and Change of System In the Government.
- Chapter XX: Of the State of Minds At the Moment When the Directorial Republic Was Established In France.
- Chapter XXI: Of the Twenty Months During Which the Republic Existed In France, From November 1795 to the 18th of Fructidor (4th of September) 1797.
- Chapter XXII: Two Singular Predictions Drawn From the History of the Revolution, By M. Necker.
- Chapter XXIII: Of the Army of Italy.
- Chapter XXIV: Of the Introduction of Military Government Into France By the Occurrences of the 18th of Fructidor.
- Chapter XXV: Private Anecdotes.
- Chapter XXVI: Treaty of Campo Formio In 1797. Arrival of General Bonaparte At Paris.
- Chapter XXVII: Preparations of General Bonaparte For Proceeding to Egypt. His Opinion On the Invasion of Switzerland.
- Chapter XXVIII: The Invasion of Switzerland.
- Chapter XXIX: Of the Termination of the Directory.
- Part Iv
- Chapter I: News From Egypt: Return of Bonaparte.
- Chapter II: Revolution of the 18th of Brumaire.
- Chapter III: Of the Establishment of the Consular Constitution.
- Chapter IV: Progress of Bonaparte to Absolute Power.
- Chapter V: Should England Have Made Peace With Bonaparte At His Accession to the Consulate?
- Chapter VI: Of the Solemn Celebration of the Concordat At Nôtre-dame.
- Chapter VII: M. Necker’s Last Work Under the Consulship of Bonaparte.
- Chapter VIII: Of Exile.
- Chapter IX: Of the Last Days of M. Necker.
- Chapter X: Abstract of M. Necker’s Principles On Government.
- Chapter XI: Bonaparte Emperor. the Counter-revolution Effected By Him.
- Chapter XII: Of the Conduct of Napoléon Toward the Continent of Europe.
- Chapter XIII: Of the Means Employed By Bonaparte to Attack England.
- Chapter XIV: On the Spirit of the French Army.
- Chapter XV: Of the Legislation and Administration Under Bonaparte.
- Chapter XVI: Of Literature Under Bonaparte.
- Chapter XVII: A Saying of Bonaparte Printed In the Moniteur.
- Chapter XVIII: On the Political Doctrine of Bonaparte.
- Chapter XIX: Intoxication of Power; Reverses and Abdication of Bonaparte.
- Part V *
- Chapter I: Of What Constitutes Legitimate Royalty.
- Chapter II: Of the Political Doctrine of Some French Emigrants and Their Adherents.
- Chapter III: Of the Circumstances That Render the Representative Government At This Time More Necessary In France Than In Any Other Country.
- Chapter IV: Of the Entry of the Allies Into Paris, and the Different Parties Which Then Existed In France.
- Chapter V: Of the Circumstances Which Accompanied the First Return of the House of Bourbon In 1814.
- Chapter VI: Of the Aspect of France and of Paris During Its First Occupation By the Allies.
- Chapter VII: Of the Constitutional Charter Granted By the King In 1814.
- Chapter VIII: Of the Conduct of the Ministry During the First Year of the Restoration.
- Chapter IX: Of the Obstacles Which Government Encountered During the First Year of the Restoration.
- Chapter X: Of the Influence of Society On Political Affairs In France.
- Chapter XI: Of the System Which Ought to Have Been Followed In 1814, to Maintain the House of Bourbon On the Throne of France.
- Chapter XII: What Should Have Been the Conduct of the Friends of Liberty In 1814?
- Chapter XIII: Return of Bonaparte.
- Chapter XIV: Of the Conduct of Bonaparte On His Return.
- Chapter XV: Of the Fall of Bonaparte.
- Chapter XVI: Of the Declaration of Rights Proclaimed By the Chamber of Representatives, 5th of July, 1815.
- Part Vi
- Chapter I: Are Frenchmen Made to Be Free?
- Chapter II: Cursory View of the History of England.
- Chapter III: Of the Prosperity of England, and the Causes By Which It Has Been Hitherto Promoted.
- Chapter IV: Of Liberty and Public Spirit Among the English.
- Chapter V: Of Knowledge, Religion, and Morals Among the English.
- Chapter VI: Of Society In England, and of Its Connection With Social Order.
- Chapter VII: Of the Conduct of the English Government Outside of England.
- Chapter VIII: Will Not the English Hereafter Lose Their Liberty?
- Chapter IX: Can a Limited Monarchy Have Other Foundations Than That of the English Constitution?
- Chapter X: Of the Influence of Arbitrary Power On the Spirit and Character of a Nation.
- Chapter XI: Of the Mixture of Religion With Politics.
- Chapter XII: Of the Love of Liberty.
Of the State of Society in Paris During the Time of the Constituent Assembly.
Foreigners can have no idea of the boasted charms and splendor of Parisian society if they have seen France only in the last twenty years; but it may be said with truth that never was that society at once so brilliant and serious as during the first three or four years of the Revolution, reckoning from 1788 to the end of 1791. As political affairs were still in the hands of the higher classes, all the vigor of liberty and all the grace of former politeness were united in the same persons. Men of the Third Estate, distinguished by their knowledge and their talents, joined those gentlemen who were prouder of their personal merits than of the privileges of their body; and the highest questions to which social order ever gave rise were treated by minds the most capable of understanding and discussing them.
The main causes that take away from the pleasures of English society are the occupations and interests of a country that has long possessed representative government. French society, on the other hand, was rendered somewhat superficial by the leisure of the monarchy. But the vigor of liberty became all at once joined to the elegance of aristocracy: in no country, and at no time, has the art of speaking in every way been so remarkable as in the early years of the Revolution.
In England, women are accustomed to be silent before men when politics form the matter of conversation: in France, women are accustomed to lead almost all the conversation that takes place at their houses, and their minds are early formed to the facility which this talent requires. Discussions on public affairs were thus softened by their means, and often intermingled with kind and lively pleasantry. Party spirit, it is true, caused divisions in society; but everyone lived with those of his own side.
At court, the two battalions of good company, one faithful to the old state of things, the other the advocates of liberty, drew up on opposite sides and rarely approached each other. I sometimes ventured, in the spirit of enterprise, to try a mixture of the two parties, by bringing together at dinner the most intelligent men of each side; for people of a certain superiority almost always understand each other; but affairs became too serious to admit of the easy renewal of even this momentary harmony.
The Constituent Assembly, as I have already mentioned, did not suspend the liberty of the press for a single day. Thus those who suffered from finding themselves always in a minority in the Assembly had at least the satisfaction of ridiculing all their opponents. Their newspapers abounded in lively witticisms on the most important matters: it was the history of the world converted into daily gossip. Such is everywhere the character of the aristocracy of courts; yet as the acts of violence that had marked the outset of the Revolution had been soon appeased, and as no confiscation, no revolutionary sentences had taken place, everyone preserved enough of comfort to give himself up to the free exercise of his mind. The crimes with which the cause of patriots has since been sullied did not then oppress their souls; and the aristocrats had not yet suffered enough for the people to dare to get the better of them.
Everything was then in opposition—interests, sentiments, and manner of thinking; but so long as scaffolds were not erected, the use of speech proved an acceptable mediator between the two parties. It was, alas! the last time that the French spirit showed itself in all its splendor; it was the last, and, in some respects, likewise the first time that the society of Paris could convey an idea of that communication of superior minds with each other, the noblest enjoyment of which human nature is capable. Those who lived at that time cannot but acknowledge that they never witnessed in any country so much animation or so much intelligence; we may judge by the number of men of talent drawn forth by the circumstances of the time what the French would become if called on to take part in public business in a path traced by a wise and sincere constitution.
It is possible indeed to introduce into political institutions a kind of hypocrisy which condemns people, from the time they come into society, to be silent or to deceive. Conversation in France has been as much spoiled during the last fifteen years by the sophistry of party spirit and the prudence of pettiness, as it was frank and animated at a time when the most important questions were boldly discussed. At that time there was only one kind of apprehension, that of not being worthy enough of the public esteem; and this apprehension gives extension to the powers of the mind instead of compressing them.
On this issue, see Craveri, The Age of Conversation.
For a more nuanced view of eighteenth-century England, see Brewer, The Pleasures of the Imagination.